- The Washington Times - Friday, August 17, 2001

Two members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights yesterday accused the commission's liberal majority of "playing ugly games with the truth" in an effort to stifle debate on civil rights issues.
Commissioners Abigail Thernstrom, a Republican, and Russell Redenbaugh, an independent, described the panel — which recently leaked a controversial report saying blacks were denied access to the polls in Florida's 2000 presidential election — as a "rogue body that will not tolerate dissent."
The criticism came in response to what the pair called the burying of their dissenting report on the Florida election battles.
After two months and threats of legal action, the final minority report was made available on the commission's Web site (www.usccr.gov) just this week, but only as an appendix containing material from a recent Senate hearing, not as a dissenting report.
"Tucking away our dissent in a crowded appendix, along with much other material, is designed to obscure the fact that we attended all the hearings and viewed all the evidence that other commissioners saw, but believe that the staff's report is partisan and tendentious," Mrs. Thernstrom and Mr. Redenbaugh said.
"Our goal in joining the U.S. Civil Rights Commission was to add robust debate to the vital issue before the commission, but we have found time and again that the chairman and the liberal majority of the commission have no interest in hearing individuals who disagree with their ideology," the two said in a joint statement.
"If they were confident in their views, they would allow for the kind of thoughtful discussion we seek. Instead, they go out of their way to hide information so it can't be analyzed, then quash any dissent," they said.
In a report leaked in June to three newspapers, the commission's majority, led by Chairman Mary Francis Berry, a declared independent who has contributed thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates over the years, said that black voters were nine times as likely as nonblacks to have their votes thrown out.
But Mrs. Thernstrom and Mr. Redenbaugh, in a dissenting report, said economic status and education were the likely factors that resulted in several thousand votes being tossed as invalid, adding that with a large get-out-the-vote effort taking place in black communities nationwide, many were first-time voters unfamiliar with voting technology and rules.
They said the commission's majority report did not recognize the concept of voter error.
Mrs. Thernstrom and Mr. Redenbaugh said they repeatedly asked Miss Berry over several months about the report on the Florida election, but received no information — noting that it was leaked to the media before they ever saw it or had a chance to study it.
They said that they were denied access to any of the statistical data used for the report and that Miss Berry also refused to make public their minority report in what they described as a "naked political act of silencing the voice of dissenting members of the commission."
Miss Berry, who was not available yesterday for comment, ruled at the time that a Yale University professor had helped prepare the minority report for no fee and that commission rules prohibited work from uncompensated experts.
Mrs. Thernstrom and Mr. Redenbaugh noted yesterday that Miss Berry submitted a similar report in 1988 from an uncompensated expert and said use of the little-known rule "rings hollow."
"The Civil Rights Commission has a long history of allowing commissioners to rely on work by uncompensated experts," they said, adding that since the panel deals with topics ranging from police brutality to immigration, "it would be natural for commissioners to consult with experts."

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